Two Toronto councillors want to defund the city’s police force by 10 per cent and use the money for community resources.
Coun. Josh Matlow said he will bring a motion to the next city council meeting at the end of the month, with support from Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam.
Matlow said he wants to see the savings — about $122 million — spent on investing in community programs.
“It’s time to defund the police budget and re-balance our use of public funds towards ensuring that our communities are supported in ways that avoid having to have the police show up to the door in the first place,” he said.
Calls to defund police have grown in the wake of the police killing of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, as well as the death in Toronto of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a black woman who fell from her balcony while police were in her home.
Many in Toronto want to see some of the funding currently spent on policing go to help those in crises and to youth programs that help divert young people away from gangs and gun violence.
Local residents have made it clear they want to see change in policing, Matlow said. Those sentiments were echoed loudly through major protests in Toronto over the last 10 days.
“There is an understandable and justifiable outcry and demand from our community that things need to change and that we come out of this pandemic with a new normal that is better than it was before,” Matlow said.
Motion calls for more control over police budget
Matlow said the motion, if passed, would include several measures. First, council would ask the province to amend the Police Service Act so that the city has the authority to approve or disapprove specific items in a budget.
Right now, Matlow said, the city can only approve the total budget, not what the police will do with that money.
“Could you imagine being asked to sign off on handing over your money without knowing what you’re paying for?” he said. “It’s absurd, really.”
Second, he wants the police to draft a 2021 budget that is 10 per cent lower than 2020’s. He also wants a line-by-line breakdown of the proposed budget.
The motion also asks for the city to consult with several divisions, including the city’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, on recommendations on how to spend the money.
Cut would mean loss of hundreds of jobs, police union says
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto Police Association, said a cut of 10 per cent would result in hundreds of jobs being lost. He estimates the positions of at least 500 police officers would be cut if the motion passed.
“It appears not to be a very well-thought out motion, It appears to be an emotional reaction to what’s transpiring the last two weeks,” McCormack said.
Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, who announced his resignation on Monday effective July 31, said the Toronto Police Service is willing to discuss the issue.
“We’re listening to the community. If you have an issue, if you have a concern, then let’s sit down. Let’s have an informed discussion, not a knee-jerk discussion, but an informed discussion on where funds should be allocated,” Saunders said.
In Minneapolis over the weekend, a majority of members of the local council said they supported disbanding the city’s police department.